Search & Read
The Last Word on Samadhi
Peter: Hi, James. I hope this email finds you well. Today I have been reading Dharma Combat and have found the discourse most stimulating and challenging at the same time.
Please, could you put into context for me the following? My reading and understanding of this discourse is most definitely conditioned by my current rudimentary understanding of the technical terms used.
On page 23, the Swami states: “They assert all spiritual knowledge is only intellectual only. Because they have not shed their dehatma buddhi, only their knowledge is intellectual[!], meaning it is all cerebral and highly mentational and will collapse without the prop of thoughts, a mode of analytical thinking.”
Swartz: I’m with Swami completely on this point.
Swami: When queried as to whether one can realise the Truth by learning the scriptures and study of books, Bhagavan replied categorically. “No. So long as vasanas remain latent in the mind, realisation cannot be achieved. Sastra learning itself is a vasana. Realisation is only in samadhi,” (Talks #230).
Peter: Further along he says, “The Real Existence is the only One devoid of objective knowledge. That is absolute consciousness. That is the state of happiness… and must be brought about even in this waking state. It is jagrat sushupti. That is mukti,” (Talks #311, 2 January 1937). Scholars addicted to “thinking knowledge” and mere erudition in sastras will naturally recoil in aversion to such blunt statements of unpalatable truth.
Swartz: Can’t argue with this.
Peter: It seems to me what is being stated here is that experience in some form is a requirement for moksa, which seems contrary to the statement that experience in not required, only knowledge? In the literal sense I am sure this is not what is being said? Please help me understand this.
Perhaps the answer to my question is hidden further on in the discussion on page 27…
Swami: I am very glad at last that Swartz gives an honourable place for samadhi in the scheme of things and does not condemn it like some modern jnanamargis who are great scholars but nevertheless have a pathological aversion to yoga sadhana. To say it is a “non-experience” is quite fine, as it is a healthy device to negate the linguistic conditioning that any experience has to necessarily do with “sensory apprehension” or “grasped by thought.” This is a typical limitation of translating anubhava as “experience.” Please see Rustom Mody’s superb article on the fallacy of the assumption of translatability, for elucidation of this idea. Since there is no other better word in English, we are forced to use this word which is all right if we clearly keep in mind the severe limitations of linguistic conditionings; otherwise one can easily get carried away by wrong and often unintended implications. Also, “experience” in common parlance implies an “enjoyer” of the same as “experiencer,” whereas in “samadhi anubhava” the experiencing ego (pramata, the knower) is itself resolved. What shines is pure knowledge (or experience) without anyone inside to own it up as “mine.” Bhagavan used the good old example of a radio which sings without a “singer sitting inside it”! It is also akin to the Cheshire Cat’s grin, which remains long after the cat has vanished out of existence, in the brilliant spiritual allegory portrayed in Alice in Wonderland. This is the ultimate paradox in Vedanta where True Experience remains after swallowing the “experiencer” and this is “sahaja nishtha/samadhi,” and this alone ends once for all the transmigrations of the soul after death (jiva yatra).
Swartz: Can’t argue with this. Very good!
Peter: The Swami states that in part the problem lies in the translation of the word “experience.” My attempt to understand this is perhaps what is implied by “experience” in samadhi is the “experience” of the removal of the experiencer, which results in knowledge of the experiencer (“I”) as the self (moksa). What then remains after the samadhi is true experience (knowledge), which is “I am the self, free of experience and the experiencer”?
James: Yes and no. Let’s start with the jiva’s point of view. The problem does lie in the translation of the word anubhava, experience. In the “state” of samadhi, the experiencer may be present or may not be present. If it is not present it is called nirvikalpa samadhi, samadhi without the subject object division and without thought, since thought is present when there is duality. If thought and the experiencing entity, the intellect (dehatma buddhi), are present and the idea of duality and the reality of thought is known to be mithya, the samadhi is called savikalpa samadhi. They are not actually different samadhis, because the effect of both samadhis is the same – the knowledge that there is actually no doer, no self separate from you, the witnessing consciousness. The knowledge that there is no experiencier or that the experiencer exists but is not real can come as a result of either samadhi. So in the case of these “states” of samadhi the knowledge arises with the experience – and is either grasped and retained – in which case it is moksa – or not. Whether or not it is retained permanently depends on the experiencer’s qualifications and whether or not the experiencer understands that moksa is only knowledge.
Now let’s look at it from the self’s point of view. From the self’s point of view samadhi is not a discrete experiential state. It is the nature of the self, which sees and values everything equally. The word “sama” means “equal” and “dhi” means buddhi, or knowledge.The Buddha was someone who had self-knowledge.
Yes, what remains is true knowledge/experience because if reality is non-dual then knowledge and experience cannot be different. Having said this, it may cause one to wonder if experience is necessary for moksa and the answer is no, because there is only the self and it is always experiencing itself. So how is knowledge brought about without a discrete experiential samadhi? By a means of knowledge, i.e. Vedanta. We can give you samadhi, assuming the qualifications, because YOU ARE samadhi, i.e. limitless existence, awareness, always. All we have to do is to remove your ignorance, assuming you understand that self-ignorance is the problem. If not, Vedanta doesn’t work, because you will always be trying to get something you already have by seeking an experience of it! We are not against discrete samadhis, but without the understanding that the nature of the self is samadhi (without division) the seeker will be endlessly caught up in the cycle of desire and action, i.e. samsara. So to help someone who has the experiential notion of samadhi we point out that what begins ends, and while the beginning may seem to be under the control of the experiencing entity, the ending – which is never desired by the experiencing entity – is up to Isvara. In other words, the experiencer has no control over the duration of the samadhi, which is cause for much lamentation insofar as samadhi is bliss, and effortless bliss is the desire of everyone. The self is satchitananda. Sat means “existence.” Chit means “consciousness” and ananda means “bliss.” So when there are no obstructions to your self-knowledge, you experience limitless bliss regardless of the discrete experiences your experiencing entity suffers or enjoys. The appreciation of one’s self as a constantly (sahaja samadhi) blissful entity is moksa, freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from samsara, constantly chasing discrete experiences in the hope of gaining bliss, gaining more bliss, gaining a differently kind of bliss or avoiding the loss of whatever bliss seems to be one’s own.
~ Love, James